Jason Dottley | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Jason Dottley

Photo courtesy Matt Stone

Photo courtesy Matt Stone

Mississippi has never been a frontrunner in pushing civil-rights movements forward, but recently, it has started fostering acceptance.

On June 26-28, the Mississippi Museum of Art will host the Mississippi Pride celebration, a gay rights event, with Jason Dottley as a musical performer and emcee.

Dottley was born in Tennessee but came to Cleveland, Miss. for elementary and middle school and half of high school. He spent the rest of his high school years in Florida.

He says he was always a performer, doing magic shows for his family when he was very young.

"I was Harry Potter before Harry Potter was Harry Potter," he said.

Eventually, though, he got bored once everybody knew his tricks and auditioned for his first play, "Hello, Dolly!" when he was 16.

Dottley starred in the MTV drama "Sordid Lives" in 2008 as Ty Williamson. The show played with the ideas of homosexual acceptance and coming out in a family from Texas.

Dottely also won the Los Angeles Drama Critic Circle Best World Premiere Play for his producing of "Yellow" in 2010. "Yellow" is about a family from Vicksburg whose darkest secret is revealed as a result of a life-threatening illness.

Along with all of his prestigious acting awards, Dottley is also a talented musician. His single "Party Round the World" placed 19th on Billboard Dance Charts in 2011. His other singles, "Pop It" and "It's Our Night," also placed on the Top 25 on Billboard. "Pop It" became a Top 20 UK hit.

Despite being an openly gay performer, Dottley said that coming back to Mississippi is always a positive experience for him, partly thanks to his grandfather, John Dottley, also known as Kayo, who played football for Ole Miss and later the Chicago Bears in the early 50s.

He wanted to come back to Mississippi for the pride convention because he remembers what it was when there no examples of anything gay in Mississippi to look up to. Coming back on the day the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling making gay marriage legal nationwide is especially meaningful to him.

"After having been considered the poster boy for gay marriage in the mid 2000s and going through my very public divorce, being in Mississippi—my home state—on the day when the fight for gay marriage equality has, in a sense, peaked is a full-circle moment for me," Dottley said.

When Dottley was growing up here, he said people weren't as accepting of the LGBT community. Now, he is confident that things have changed. "It's time Mississippi had a pride," he said.

Dottley said he hopes that "Mississippi Pride will be able to succeed in bringing together the (LGBT) community and a lot of its sub parts. "We are all in this together: The gay, the straight, the white, the black, the midgets. Everyone."

He said that the LGBT community does very much exist in Mississippi, and that they are fighting just as hard as anyone else, but visibility is a huge problem.

"The moment you become aware of something, you are less afraid of it," he said.

This year, Dottley is on tour around the country performing his one man show "Life on the gAy-List" and making his most expensive music video ever called "Cocaine and Whiskey" that he says is "country with a tinge of EDM and rock. It's totally unlike anything I've done before." He will also star in a new gay comedy feature film called "Husband-In-Law," which will begin filming next year, and will release a best-hits record on iTunes sometime in July.

The Mississippi LGBTQ Pride weekend is June 26-28. For more information, visit mspride.org.

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